One of the practical realities of hosting classis meetings is that organizers need to know who is planning to come. While this may be less important for classes where people can more-or-less just show up for the day or evening, it is a particular challenge for classes that are spread out and need to make significant travel arrangements. I’ve recently been involved in some conversations with Stated Clerks about how they deal with getting this information, and below are some ideas we’ve collected.
While some classes simply have delegates show up and hand in a paper copy of their credentials upon arrival, many are moving towards collecting them ahead of time. The main benefits for having them prior to the meeting are that organizers know who is coming (helps in preparing name tags, numbers for meals, etc.), streamlined accommodations arrangement, and potential preparation for any requests for help that churches may indicate on their credentials.
If your classis does want to collect credentials and other registration data ahead of time, here are a couple ideas for how to do so (recognizing that your classis may require a signed copy of the credentials on file for delegates to be seated, whether that is provided electronically ahead of time or brought along to the meeting):
- Scan & Send: email the credentials form to all the churches and ask that it be printed, signed, scanned, and returned. This option could be used alone or in conjunction with any of the other options below if your classis requires a signed copy of the church’s credentials.
- Email exchange: email all the churches and ask that they email you back with the information you are looking for. Be clear what you’re asking. If you want just church name and delegates, say so. If you’re looking for food allergies, room sharing requests, flight info, etc. then make sure you have a clear list ahead of time for all the info you want. Otherwise you end up sending multiple emails back and forth.
- Online Forms: create an online form that allows for delegates to submit their information ahead of time. This is particularly helpful for classes that have more extensive arrangements to make, such as lodging. Any of the following options could be included on a classis website, and the link sent out by email to all the churches. Each of the options have capabilities for exporting the data into a spreadsheet for easier data management. I won’t say much about any of them here, because how to best use each one could be a blog post in and of itself. So let this be a launching pad for you. If you’re wondering, my personal preference is Google Forms.
- Google Forms: straightforward forms creator, can share editing and viewing permissions with various people who are also involved in organizing. Create the form, then share the link. All responses can be automatically exported into Google Sheets. Can set up notifications whenever the form is submitted. If you have a Gmail address you already have a Google account; otherwise, an account can be created with any email address you have. (forms.google.com).
- Excel Survey: similar to Google Forms, but more limited in its functionality. It uses Office 365’s cloud-based version of Excel. Surveys can be created either in Onedrive or the Excel online app. If you have a Hotmail or Live email address, or use Office 365, you already have a Microsoft account; otherwise, an account can be created with any email address you have. Note: this is not the same things as Office Forms, which is for people with a business or education account. (Click for more info).
- Survey Monkey: a platform typically used for doing surveys, but you can easily use it as a sign-up form. Need to create a free account. (surveymonkey.com)
- Web Host: Some website developers have a form creator built in to their hosting platform (eg. Faith Websites has a “form creator” that can collect the data, automatically email responses, and export to Excel). Check with your web developer for options.
If you’re involved in organizing classis meetings, it’d be great to hear your experiences in the comments below. If you’re hoping to streamline the way you collect credentials and want to explore any of the options above, or others, let me know ([email protected]). I’ll be happy to help you navigate this process.
We have been using the scan and send method with a great deal of success for years. The credentials form is sent out a month prior to the Classis meeting and the churches fill it in, scan it, and email it back.
We then put the information into an excel spreadsheet and verify attendance as delegates arrive, prior to the meeting. The clerk then is able to give an attendance report on the number of churches represented.
Classis Alberta North
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